I was in Cardiac ICU for a day or so, and don’t remember much about it other than DOS coming by to see me regularly and making sure I used the air-puff machine (to prevent pneumonia), ate my meals (which started out lightly as in jello and soup), and overall offer me love and support.
By the next evening after surgery, I was moved to my regular room for the duration of my stay in the hospital, which would be for another five nights. The section I was staying was a special mini unit for cardiac surgery patients, and it was nice, friendly, quiet, and located a way from the other hospital patient and ER areas.
I really appreciated being in that mini-unit, not only for the extra heart care, but also being away from other patients who might have COVID. Although DOS and I were both been fully vaccinated for COVID, the Delta variant is still quite rampant with lots of unvaccinated people filling up the ER’s and ICUs in hospitals. I really don’t understand why many in the general public will not get the COVID vaccine, but I digress.
As I settled in my new room, I gradually was offered more solid food. Except for the first day in my new room, a staff member from the dining/catering department took my order for each meal. I don’t eat eggs, but at least I got turkey sausage and some coffee cake for my first real breakfast!
As the week went on, my menu for lunch and dinners especially was quite nice for hospital food, and actually large portions too. While there was a choice of several items, the nursing staff sometimes suggested some of the best options based on their experience. The chicken pot pie was huge and delicious, as were some of the other meals such as salmon, turkey, and even beef stroganoff on my last day. I had no complaints with the food, and even the early lunch time of 11:15am and dinner time of 4:45 to 5pm didn’t bother me either. The dining staff were all quite courteous, and provided individualized service from taking my meal order to delivering my food. Thank you very much!
By the fourth day I was ready to walk around the unit a bit. At first I used a wheel chair for support so I wouldn’t fall (and also to hold some of the equipment still connected to me.). I did pretty well for a first go-round, and walked a single lap around our cardiac unit, with assistance and supervision from the medical staff, which I also did later in the evening.
By the fifth day, I was able to walk two laps with DOS by my side, without the wheelchair or medical staff guiding me. The unit was a rectangular shape, so I walked by the nurses station each time, and they always smiled or commented to see me up and about.
The one thing I really did not like during my stay was nighttime. Even with all of the regular interruptions (both day and night) for blood work, CT scans, respiratory, vitals etc, at nighttime I felt isolated even with the regular nursing and other visits. I don’t mean that in a negative way at all towards the hospital staff; rather it’s my own claustrophobic nature, which really bothered me at night laying in the hospital bed.
During the day I could see what was going on, what equipment I was attached to, DOS was there to help me up to the chair and restroom, seeing and assisting with any wires/tubes etc that were attached to me etc, but at nighttime I wasn’t able to relax and get comfortable to sleep. I’m sure all of the medications made me a bit loopy and nervous, but with a nose tube attached to me for oxygen, multiple wires connected to a device behind me which beeped every couple seconds, thoughts of entrapment as I couldn’t get up easily with everything connected etc, and in the dark it really intensified. I used the nurse call button at least twice a night, and had to request a Xanax a couple nights to help me sleep. Most nights I ended up getting nursing assistance to help me from the bed to the adjacent chair as well. Similar to when I had my broken neck last year, I was actually much more comfortable sitting up, or slightly reclined in the chair, so that seemed to help as well at nights when I was in the hospital.
I was always glad when daylight rolled around as I could see what was happening!
I also began the day anew with an Xray at 6am (which I was wheeled down to), followed by respiratory care, glucose testing via finger pricks, vitals, blood work etc. As DOS was staying at the hotel down the street, he would return to visit me after breakfast, and stay with me most of the day except for meal breaks in the cafeteria or a late afternoon nap at the hotel.
Finally on my 7th day in the hospital, the doctors released me to go home if I felt up to it. I certainly felt up to it, and was ready to go home after nearly a week since my surgery. One of the nurses changed my chest wound bandaging and I was surprised to see how small of an area the incision actually was. I guess I expected the incision to go all the way down my chest, but Dr. Hannah was such an amazing surgeon and minimized the work area on my chest.
I was re-bandaged back up, and while I was waiting on my discharge papers and the medicines filled at the hospital pharmacy, I had a nice last in-room lunch of beef stroganoff. Do I look happy to be going home?
After lunch I got dressed into my ‘street clothes’ for the first time in a week, which consisted of a Hawaiian shirt, shorts, and sneakers. I received some last minute instructions on a heart monitor (the small box to the right of my bandages) that I was given to wear for 28 days, as well as a phone-like device which monitors my heart, and transmits the signals to a 24/7 monitoring station, and ultimately my cardiologist.
I also had another device (a tiny Pico box) that had been attached to my chest during my stay, but was re-attached as a new bandage was put on me, (not shown above) that acts as a tiny vacuum of sorts for drainage on my chest, and helps prevent infection which is a possible side affect of surgery.
When it was finally time to ‘check out’ of the hospital, DOS gathered up my papers, heart pillow, iPad etc and put them in a hospital bag to take home, I waited anxiously in a hospital provided wheel chair to wheel me out to the hospital entrance.
After saying goodbye and a huge thank you to the nursing staff and previously a couple of doctors, I was wheeled downstairs to the entrance, where DOS had the car waiting for me.
Going from the hospital room to the warm outside air and buzz of activity was a bit of shock for me after being isolated inside the hospital for a week, but it was great feeling!
I won’t be able to drive for a few weeks, but DOS made sure I was buckled up properly before he did. It felt a bit weird having a seatbelt across my chest, but it was obviously necessary for safety’s sake.
Once home, DOS filmed a short video. I didn’t realize how tired out I really was from the week in the hospital, and was still quite affected by all of the medication from the week. Here I am walking in the front door of our home, and zombied out a bit short on making a coherent sentence. But “there’s no place like home!”
Welcome home, and a huge shout out to the entire staff at Orlando Regional Medical Center. As I told some of the nurses, you are truly angels on earth! And that goes for everyone that assisted me. Thank everyone for their prayers as well. Home is truly where the Heart is! God Bless!